Words Posy Gentles Photographs William Ford, Phil Self
The Isolation Choir has uploaded its first song to YouTube. More than 50 singers and seven instrumentalists came together online from their disparate locked-down homes – some alone, others in twos and threes – to sing Wild Mountain Thyme led by Phil Self, locked down in Faversham.
Phil was working as a full-time musician, composing, playing guitar and singing, and leading community choirs and ‘singing for health’ groups until, in the two weeks leading up to lockdown, venues closed, performances were cancelled, gatherings were banned and his diary emptied.
Phil says: ‘I had some discussion with the organisations I work with – the Canterbury Cantata Trust, Sing to Beat, Music 4 Wellbeing and Living Lively – as to how we could keep singing. They all agreed that now more than ever, the members of the community choirs, some of whom have Parkinson’s and other neurological conditions needed the support and expression that singing together offered. Phil mulled over the idea of an online choir, a collaboration of the singing groups, professional musicians who have lost work, and anyone else who would like to join, and came up with The Isolation Choir – Caring Through Singing.
He chose Wild Mountain Thyme as the first song to record as it was already a favourite in the singing groups. He uploaded a video of himself singing and playing the guitar and invited singers to video themselves singing along, and send in the recording. ‘All you need is any type of headphone, even the little in-ear headphone you get with your phone will do, and the means to film yourself.’
Recordings flooded in – one singer in her dressing gown, another in a field, a double bassist and a musical saw player. Phil mixed and edited the stay-at-home recordings and has created an uplifting and heartening video of unity in these difficult times.
The next song will be What a Wonderful World which Phil is currently arranging. Having established the online choir works, Phil is recording three parts for singers to choose from – alto, tenor and the melody.
Anyone can join the choir free of charge. Find it on Instagram @theisolationchoir, Facebook.com/theisolationchoir and look on YouTube for ‘The Isolation Choir sing Wild Mountain Thyme’. If you would like to make a financial contribution – and this is entirely voluntary – go to paypal.me/theisolationchoir